Firehouse 12 heats up city music scene

Firehouse 12, a former firehouse turned recording studio and performance venue in New Haven’s Ninth Square, hosted its first official concert Sunday.

A three-story space that includes a cafe and bar, an apartment, an office and the principal recording and performing area, the unassuming brick building at 47 Crown St. has undergone an extreme makeover since its days as a local firehouse.

After nearly three years of gutting and renovating the building, proprietor Nick Lloyd ’97 introduced new acoustics and architecture to a previously unused space. Lloyd said that with the opening of Firehouse 12, he hopes to attract musicians to New Haven who have not previously had a local performance space.

“People interested in playing at a small, focused venue will finally have a place in New Haven to do that,” Lloyd said. “And Firehouse 12 will tend toward music suited for the style of the space.”

Lloyd said the type of music will range from improvised jazz to avant garde to heavy rock. Upcoming scheduled performances include chamber music, electro-acoustic music, and a piano soloist.

Lloyd said he purchased the old firehouse on a whim when he found out the city was auctioning it off in 2001. The building was entirely in ruins after 45 years of vacancy, so he started to create the venue he envisioned from scratch. With the help of acoustic designer John Storyck and local architectural firm Gray Organschi, Lloyd created a modern interior with state-of-the-art equipment while maintaining the historical brick facade.

Adam Hopfner ARC ’99, project manager at Gray Organschi, said he tried to preserve the integrity of the original structure while working under strict spatial constraints. He used a curved plywood component that wraps around the cafe’s ceilings and up to the studio’s walls to tie the space together.

“There is a clear distinction between the old and the new in the building, and our idea was to create a dialogue between the two,” Hopfner said. “There were also a lot of acoustical implications in trying to accommodate different musical venues.”

The performance space, which contains 85 seats and a Steinway concert grand piano, doubles as a recording studio with isolation rooms that will exist unmolested by both street noise and chatter from the bar downstairs. The studio is equipped with a state-of-the-art mixing board, of which only 45 of its kind exist in the world, Lloyd said.

“There is no commercial recording studio in downtown New Haven, and this one was built like the high-end studios in cities like New York and Los Angeles,” Lloyd said. “The idea is that because there is a smaller market in New Haven, the cost of renting is less although it has the same quality of equipment.”

Three bands have already rented the space for recording projects. Lloyd said he hopes local bands and students interested in recording but do not have the resources at their schools will consider using Firehouse 12.

After attending an unofficial concert in February at the venue, David Longstreth ’05 arranged to do a show at Firehouse 12 May 26. He will perform with his band, Dirty Productions, as the starting point of their U.S. tour.

Associate Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said he thinks Firehouse 12 will be a wonderful mixing ground for members of the Yale and wider New Haven community.

“The work that Nick is doing in offering cultural life and economic development to New Haven is the most important thing Yale students and alumni can do for New Haven,” Morand said. “It is a wonderful addition to New Haven’s role as the cultural capital of Connecticut.”

Nick Lloyd ’97 converted this former firehouse to hold performance space as well as isolation rooms like this one to provide recording space for local artists to rent.
Leland Milstein
Nick Lloyd ’97 converted this former firehouse to hold performance space as well as isolation rooms like this one to provide recording space for local artists to rent.

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